Press Release

New ranking compares metro areas that lead the country in innovation impact

Report from the George W. Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative connects innovation in metros to universities, colleges, and academic medical centers; provides recommendations for institutions and policymakers.

DALLAS, TEXAS –  Today, the George W. Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative released a report ranking U.S. metros alongside the universities, colleges, and academic medical centers that have successfully transformed research and development dollars into innovation 

Higher education and academic medical institutions contribute greatly to the prosperity and opportunity in our nation’s cities. They provide significant local employment and have a substantial stake in the city’s vitality. The report, “Engines of opportunity: how eds and meds institutions can become more powerful drivers of prosperity in America’s cities,” can be a helpful tool for university and academic medical institution leaders, policymakers, and philanthropic funders to capitalize on the large economic footprint of these institutions.  

“Universities, colleges, and academic medical institutions drive opportunity and prosperity for the cities they are housed in,” said Cullum Clark, author of the report and Director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative. “With proper support mechanisms and collaboration between our institutes of higher learning, governments, and businesses, metro areas can see greater impact and economic growth.”  

The report advises leaders in our institutions to restore federal investment in research and development, redirect funding streams to promote research and innovative education-to-career pathways, and step up investment in local and regional innovation ecosystems. It also recommends ensuring more transparency and accountability by disclosing student outcomes data as well as innovation impact data.  

For policymakers, the report calls for more immigration visas and looser work rules for foreign STEM students, increasing the talent pool these institutions can draw from. Additionally, the report recommends more support for innovative research, education, and placemaking strategies while ensuring accountability and competition.  

The rankings found in the report differentiate themselves by examining innovation ecosystems and talent pipelines. Rankings include the nation’s 385 largest metros by various innovation and prosperity measures. The report also ranks the best universities at turning research spending into innovation impact by tracking patents, technology licenses, licensing income, startup companies, and other measures. 

The following are the top 10 metros for university innovation impact:  

  1. Boston, Massachusetts 
  2. New York, New York 
  3. Los Angeles, California 
  4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
  5. San Francisco, California 
  6. Houston, Texas 
  7. Chicago, Illinois 
  8. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania 
  9. Baltimore, Maryland 
  10. Seattle, Washington 

The following are the top 10 metros for university innovation impact on a per capita basis: 

  1. Durham, North Carolina  
  2. Madison, Wisconsin 
  3. Boston, Massachusetts 
  4. New Haven, Connecticut 
  5. Provo, Utah 
  6. Albuquerque, New Mexico 
  7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 
  8. Tucson, Arizona 
  9. Worcester, Massachusetts 
  10. Raleigh, North Carolina 

The following are the top 10 universities ranked for innovation impact:  

  1. University of California system 
  2. University of Texas system 
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  4. University of Michigan 
  5. University of Washington 
  6. Harvard University 
  7. University of Pennsylvania 
  8. University of Minnesota 
  9. University of Florida 
  10. Stanford University 

Eds and meds institutions promote local employment and have a vested interest in the success of the metro. However, economic growth and sustainability require the cooperation of government, public and private institutions, and the community. With the right policy priorities, consistent funding for research and development, and a dedication to address innovation gaps, eds and meds institutions create real impact.  

Click here to read the report and policy recommendations. 




About the George W. Bush Institute 

The George W. Bush Institute is a solution-oriented nonpartisan policy organization focused on ensuring opportunity for all, strengthening democracy, and advancing free societies. Housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the Bush Institute is rooted in compassionate conservative values and committed to creating positive, meaningful, and lasting change at home and abroad. We utilize our unique platform and convening power to advance solutions to national and global issues of the day. Learn more at 


About the George W. Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative 

The Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative combines the public policy expertise of the George W. Bush Institute and the academic expertise of SMU. The joint initiative draws from economic policy-making experience at the highest levels and from cutting edge academic research to identify ideas for promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and faster, more inclusive growth through global competitiveness and sound immigration policy.